Patents, access to health and COVID-19 – The role of compulsory and government-use licensing in Ireland
Keywords:patents, COVID-19, compulsory licensing, government-use licence, service of the state, access to medicines
As the race for effective vaccines/treatments for Covid-19 develops, attention has turned to how such vaccines/treatments will be accessed globally. Patents play a significant role in this context because they give the patent-holder the right to stop others using patented inventions. Patents are available on medicines/vaccines and could form significant access obstacles for Covid-19. Moreover, whilst many patent-holders may be willing to license health-technologies reasonably, others may not. Therefore, it is imperative that national governments ensure effective avenues exist to intervene with patent-holder discretion via compulsory and government-use licensing. This article focuses on the legal framework applicable in Ireland for such compulsory licensing interventions, interrogating the effectiveness of this framework in alleviating access issues posed by patents for Covid-19. It demonstrates how the current framework could be reformed to make it more effective in tempering patent-holder control, where needed, whilst remaining in compliance with Ireland’s international obligations.